The NFL's Overtime Rules Are Just Fine


Life takes odd twists and turns. For instance, it was shocking to see the masses sit through eight hours of some of the most entertaining, high-stakes football and then immediately complain about the rules of NFL overtime. But they did, in between complaining about the mystifying and egregiously bad officiating.

It’s even more shocking to have lived long enough to see college football’s gimmicky overtime held up as the ideal standard. You know, the glorified practice drill where each team gets the ball 25 yards from the goal line. The one that can go on for hours. The one that can come down to a single two-point conversion try.

Is it frustrating for the fans that Patrick Mahomes didn’t touch the ball in overtime? Sure. Is it fair? Well, yeah. It’s fair. Those upset about how the AFC Championship Game was resolved conveniently forget that the NFL overtime worked to perfection earlier in the afternoon.

Both teams touched the ball because the team that started on defense made a play. Just because you lose the coin toss doesn’t mean you have to lose the game. Doing anything but allowing the other team to march 80 yards to glory ensures an offensive possession.

The Los Angeles Rams are going to the Super Bowl because the rules allowed them to win without advancing the ball past the Saints’ 40-yard line. Had New Orleans bombed in a long field goal, Jared Goff would have gotten his smallish paws on the ball. There are advantages to starting on defense.

More importantly, the “not fair” camp tends to forget that there are 60 minutes of action before overtime. Patriots-Chiefs was not decided by one possession. It was decided by 23, and 22 of those came in regulation.

The NFL has already improved the overtime rules by forcing the receiving team to score a touchdown to end things. Football is not baseball with its ability to play countless extra time. There is a safety component. The best way to avoid the randomness of an overtime coin toss is to win in regulation. The best way to avoid losing in overtime without possessing the ball is to prevent a touchdown.

Now, I know. This sounds like a gruff and perhaps simplistic view. But it’s the truth. So much of the frustration from yesterday comes from not seeing Mahomes take the field. That is not an argument about competitive balance as much as it is about pure entertainment.

Overtime — and the game at large — is a quest to find a winner, not to create a utopian where everything is fair and balanced. Bad calls and inequitable circumstances are part of sports. It’s not entirely satisfying, but the NFL’s overtime is far superior to what college is doing.

The Rams march on because they executed. The Chiefs are going home because they didn’t.